Tag Archives: CIBC

Getting biblical about spam

As promised, today’s article in Business Observer discusses brick-and-mortar companies who violate email netiquette and send unsolicited marketing emails to people. It’s based on three companies I talked about in my “not above outright spam” series:

  • Kanuk (which is still sending me such emails)
  • Rogers (my wireless provider, who seem to think being a customer is carte blanche for spamming)
  • CIBC

In all three cases, I can only theorize about why my email was added to these marketing lists, because not one of them responded to repeated requests for an explanation, the first as a regular spam victim, the second as a reporter researching a story. CIBC’s media relations guy asked for more information about the email, but I never heard from them or their email services provider Komunik again.

A fourth company, Chapters/Indigo, was left out because (a) the article was already way too long, (b) they responded to my request and investigated promptly, and (c) their investigation determined that my mother signed up for an account there two years ago. Here’s what it would have looked like:

Company: Indigo Books and Music
Date: Sept. 24, 2007
What they were selling: Book bargains
Email service provider: ThinData

Indigo’s email followed what has apparently become an industry standard of having people fill out web forms before they can unsubscribe from email lists. And like other companies, it assumed I have an account and wouldn’t let me unsubscribe unless I logged in. But Indigo responded promptly to my initial complaint with a thorough investigation.

Well, actually ThinData found a blog post I wrote with the complaint and then alerted the company. Within two days I had a response from Indigo’s customer service director explaining that someone else (my mother) had used the address to set up an account in 2005, and they have “only recently been reaching out to our past customers.” He unsubscribed me from the list and apologized for problems I had unsubscribing. Both Indigo and ThinData provided copies of extensive privacy and anti-spam policies.

The original message violated some best practices for email marketing that ThinData swears by, such as providing a simple one-click way to unsubscribe. Nevertheless, the provider accepted the response from Indigo and said they “consider this matter resolved.”

That last part sort of irked me. Despite promises that they’re 100% against spam, these companies seem to defer to their clients when it comes to actually determining whether policies are being followed. Explanations are accepted at face value and no independent investigations are done.

The article also includes some suggested best practices for commercial email marketers, compiled from industry sources and the Canadian Task Force on Spam. Hopefully some companies will be a bit more strict about conforming to them.

I’ll let you know if any of these companies decide to respond now that the article is out. In the meantime, do you have any spam gripes about companies that should know better?

CIBC not above outright spam

I was going through my junk mail folder and I came across an email from CIBC whose subject line is in French. French-language spam is pretty rare, so I tend to give it a second look.

Turns out it’s a legitimate CIBC email (they have a copy of it on their website) having something to do with their VISA card.

And just like the Chapters email I got last month (their email provider promised to get back to me “ASAP” but I never heard from them again), it’s something I never asked for, sent to an address that gets just about nothing but spam, from a company I’ve never done business with in my entire life. Neither I nor anyone in my family does banking with CIBC, and I have no idea how they would have my email address.

Like I did with Chapters, I checked their unsubscribe process. The link sends me to this web page which asks for, among other things, my name, phone number and last four digits of my CIBC VISA credit card. All fields are, of course, required.

There’s a few problems with this:

  1. The URL for this page starts with www.email.cibccards.com. Sounds kinda phishy to me.
  2. The fact that they ask for part of my credit card number based on an unsolicited email makes this even more worrisome. It’s encouraging bad habits and horrible security practices.
  3. Why is anything beyond my email address needed to unsubscribe from a mailing list?
  4. I don’t have a CIBC VISA credit card number because I’m not a CIBC customer! Since they require information from me that simply doesn’t exist, I can only conclude that it is impossible for me to unsubscribe from this mailing list.

Considering that this message seems to clearly violate CIBC’s own anti-phishing policy, as well as being outright spam, I’ve sent them an email asking for an explanation. I’ll update this post if they provide one.

I’ve copied the email to Komunik, makers of Konversation, the CIBC’s email marketing provider, demanding to know how they don’t consider this spam.